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Legal Research: Secondary Sources: Abbreviations, dictionaries & encyclopaedias

Legal abbreviations

Legal abbreviations can be a puzzle to both new students and experienced professionals.  Indexes can help you find the name of a publication to which the abbreviation commonly refers.

If the title of the journal is abbreviated, you'll need to know the title in full before you can find the journal. Some comprehensive online legal abbreviation indexes are:

Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations

CaseBase Table of Abbreviations - Consult this source only when using LexisNexis AU. The link to the Table of Abbreviations is in the left hand menu.

Pictured above: Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations, catalogue record

Legal dictionaries

Use a legal dictionary to find the meaning of a word or phrase. Legal dictionaries provide authoritative and often detailed definitions and to place terms in their legal context. It is important to use the dictionary relevant to your jurisdiction. Dictionaries also often cite key cases and legislation which define terms.


Australian Law Dictionary Online - Oxford

Australian Legal Words and Phrases - LexisNexis AU

Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary - LexisNexis AU 


Canadian Legal Words and Phrases - LexisNexis AU

The Dictionary of Canadian Law - Carswell

New Zealand 

New Zealand Legal Words and Phrases - LexisNexis AU

United Kingdom

Dictionary of Law - Oxford 

Words and Phrases Legally Defined - LexisNexis AU

Stroud's Judicial Dictionary of Words and Phrases - Thomson Reuters, catalogue record

United States

Black's Law Dictionary:

  • Online via Westlaw - select 'Secondary Sources' from the Westlaw homepage and then select 'Black's Law Dictionary' from the 'Tools and Resources' menu on the right. 
  • View the catalogue record for the hardcopy version. 

Legal encyclopaedias

The following provide succinct summaries on the current state of the law. They are arranged by subject and include statute and case law authorities in support of the statements.


Halsbury's Laws of Australia - LexisNexis AU


The Canadian Encyclopedic Digest

Halsbury's Laws of Canada - LexisNexis AU (select the title from the 'My Favourites' menu on the right of the LexisNexis homepage) 

New Zealand 

The Laws of New Zealand - LexisNexis AU (select the tab 'Find a Source' and then search for 'Laws of New Zealand') 

United Kingdom

Halsbury's Laws of England - LexisNexis AU

United States

Westlaw includes two legal encylopaedias: American Jurisprudence and Corpus Juris Secundum. To access these titles: 

  • Access Westlaw from the Library catalogue
  • ​From the Westlaw homepage go to 'Secondary Sources'. 
  • Scroll through the list of publications until you find the title and click on the link for the title. 
  • Once you have accessed the title, you can browse the table of contents or search the title using the search bar at the top of the screen.